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Apr 18, 2017

Review: Applebee's - New "2 for $20" Special Entrees

Applebee's recently added four new options to their "2 for $20" special so I went and tried all four of them, including the Caprese Mozzarella Burger, Caprese Mozzarella Chicken, Spinach + Artichoke Chicken Cavatappi, and Firecracker Shrimp Cavatappi.

Getting all four entrees (plus two appetizers) would normally go for $42.50 under the deal (the Firecracker Shrimp is two for $25) but my meal came courtesy of Applebee's.

The Caprese Mozzarella Burger features sauteed garlic and onions seared into a beef patty, balsamic aioli, grilled tomatoes, grilled red onions, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil on a toasted bun. A side of fries is included.

The burger came off as a fairly bland. The beef patty was well-done but still moist. It had a nice, coarse grind for texture as well as a nice crust. Unfortunately, the garlic and onions seared into the patty didn't quite make it across flavor-wise.

Oddly, for something labeled "caprese," there were several slices of grilled onions and only one lone, small slice of grilled tomato. The mozzarella was melted and creamy and the basil was there but didn't deliver on the expected flavor. I think the balsamic aioli was supposed to do the heavy lifting but was pretty mild.

The Caprese Mozzarella Chicken offers grilled chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, tomato, red onion, basil, and balsamic glaze, plus a side of garlic mashed potatoes.

It turned out better but still whiffed it as far as the "caprese" went. The grilled chicken breast was juicy, well seasoned, and plentiful but there wasn't enough fresh mozzarella (two small slices), tomato (there's one slice hidden in there somewhere), or basil (two small leaves didn't quite cut it) to go around.

What there was a lot of was red onion and it wasn't cooked through so it had a lot of bite to it. The balsamic glaze added a light sweet tanginess and garlic mashed potatoes were smooth and tasty.

Basically, the chicken and mashed potatoes were excellent but, as for the rest, the proportions were way off as far as the caprese components went.

The Spinach + Artichoke Chicken Cavatappi features fried spinach leaves, artichoke, cavatappi pasta, grilled chicken breast, Parmesan, and grape tomatoes. Like the burger, it was lacking in flavor. There was a lot of green floating around so I was expecting a good amount of flavor to go with it, but that didn't turn out to be the case.

The pasta was al dente, which is to say it was cooked through but still offered a nice firmness. The spinach contributed an interesting crispiness but zero flavor. I didn't taste or see any artichoke. What I was left with was a thick cream sauce that made for a nice base but with nothing built upon it. I think more parmesan would have helped but somehow my Caesar side salad got a generous dousing of parmesan (and flavor) while this entree got a light sprinkling...

What was left then was the chicken breast, which was just a good as in the Caprese Mozzarella Chicken entree, and the grape tomatoes, which were good for a burst of bright tanginess when encountered.

The dish that turned out to be my favorite was the Firecracker Shrimp Cavatappi, which consists of crispy-fried Sriracha shrimp, grilled zucchini, red bell pepper, red onion, and cavatappi in Parmesan Sriracha cream sauce.

The shrimp was crispy with a fairly thick breading. Inside, the shrimp was moist and flavorful. They weren't huge but were good enough for a big bite's worth.

The pasta was al dente and here, the sauce had to good amount of things going on with it. With a name like Firecracker Shrimp, I expected some kind of an East Asian or Southeast Asian type of flavor (although cream sauces aren't common in those cuisines) but it was more of a Southwest (American) flavor with a slight kick of heat. It was good but surprising. Additionally, the little pile of diced veggies contributed with a varied batch of mellow flavors plus contrasting textures.


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